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Mandela Day Brings More "Change for Children" PDF Print E-mail

Virgin Atlantic Airways and Water For All celebrated Mandela Day, a national day of service in South Africa, by volunteering their staff and crew's time and talents at the Sibikiwe Primary School in Ennerdale, about an hour outside of Johannesburg.

Earlier in the year, Water For All had donated a solar water pump to Sibikiwe with funds raised by Virgin Atlanticís Change for Children program. Change for Children is the "onboard charity" of Virgin Atlantic, where passengers donate loose change or foreign currency to a designated nonprofit organization working in one of the airline's destinations. The airline chose Water For All to receive 100 percent of the donations collected in August 2009 - £48,419.85 (more than USD79,000).
"Thanks to Change for Children, Virgin Atlantic could donate a Water For All Sun Pump to the Sibikiwe School," said Simon Newton-Smith, Virgin Atlantic Country Manager. "It only made sense for Virgin Atlantic to support a service event where our staff could work alongside local organisations to help increase the impact of the new water source at the school. The UK crew and our local staff did a brilliant job, and had quite a bit of fun as well!"

Fifteen volunteers from the Virgin Atlantic African offices plus 12 of the UK based cabin crew gathered with eight Water For All staff at the school on Monday, 19 July. Half the crew had arrived from London that morning after working on the flight overnight and the other half were returning to London that night and were working on their way home. Many of the crew and staff brought donations for the school, from soap and cricket bats to books, crayons and pens - some 15 bags of goodies for the children!

The school director, Mrs. Samela, welcomed the volunteers to the school, which has 450 learners and 14 teachers, and provides a basic meal for the children every day. "I am very proud that visitors would want to come and help us," said Mrs. Samela. "Itís amazing that this group would take a day off of work to lend us a hand."

Jill Rademacher, President of Water For All, told the group how the solar pump operates and provides the school with water for drinking, washing, and will be used to irrigate a new vegetable garden.  

Food and Trees Africa, who are experts in school vegetable gardens, directed one team of volunteers on digging and planting the new garden. Food and Trees staff trained the mothers from the community who worked with the volunteers on how to care for the garden long term. Theyíll go back in few weeks to see how the garden is progressing and help the women with any questions they have. Virgin Atlantic donated the essentials for a vegetable garden including tools, a hosepipe for irrigation, compost, seeds and an assortment of herbs, and fruit and indigenous trees.  

Other volunteers assisted with constructing a fence for the veggie garden and with dishing up lunch for the children. Several worked with the Water For All team to construct a low cost handing washing station called the "tippy tap." Scrap metal and recycled two litre soda bottles were converted to create clean water dispensers so the children can wash their hands throughout the day with the water provided by the Sun Pump.

Finally, after all long hot day of work, the school day ended and the children were invited for an hour of games and activities led by Active Education. Virgin Atlantic staff passed out inflatable footballs to each of the children to take home. The school was buzzing with smiling faces and the visitors were even treated to a chorus of Waka Waka, the official song of the World Cup 2010.

"This is the third volunteer service day Water For All has partnered with Virgin Atlantic," said Jill Rademacher. "I continue to be amazed and so grateful for Virgin Atlanticís commitment to being a positive contributor to its communities."